Third generation of Tweetens deals with cars in Havre


February 13, 2020

Editor's note: This version includes the corrections listed in Friday's edition of The Havre Daily News.

Hank Tweeten's Auto Body, also known as Hammer'n Hank's, has been a long-standing family owned and operated business in Havre with Hank Tweeten saying it always has worked to provide fair and honest work for its customers and the community. 

Hank Tweeten's Auto Body has also been a long-time supporter of Havre and the surrounding area, former owner Hank Tweeten said. He added that he has watched Havre grow and change over the years and is proud of the community he is in.

"I think we've both grown up and changed and moved forward with the community," Tweeten said. "We try to fulfill the needs of the community as time goes by."

Tweeten said that the business first started shortly after his father, Raymond, moved their family up from Great Falls in 1962. Shortly after moving to Havre, Raymond partnered with Gordon Nordling, buying out Nordling's previous partner Mike Fisher, and created Nordling and Tweeten Auto Dealership. Hank Tweeten said that his father had sold the family farm in Minnesota to buy into the business, which at the time was a car dealership selling Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs and General Motors Trucks.

He added the business was originally located east of town, near Blue Bear Car Wash and Archie's Auto Body. In August of 1964, the Nordling and Tweeten burned down and the business had to move to another location. Tweeten said all that is left of the original location is a concrete slab and a tree growing out of the middle of the property.

He was 13 years old at the time of the fire, he said, adding that when the fire occurred their family was on the east coast attending the 1964 World's Fair, a trip they had to cut short, rushing back to Havre to attend to the business.

The business eventually moved to its present location, but at the time it looked very different than it does today, he said. Tweeten said that shortly after the business moved locations, they had a used car dealership on one of the lots as well as their other dealership, which then included Pontiac, Buick and Opel. 

In 1965, Raymond Tweeten and Nordling also purchased a gas station on the corner of First Street and Fifth Avenue, which is where Northern Land and Realty is presently located. Hank Tweeten said that he used to work at the gas station during the summers and after school when he was younger. At around the same time the gas station was established Nordling and Tweeten hired and brought up Ivol Bender to be the foreman of the body shop at the time.

Hank Tweeten said that he learned alot about working on cars from Ivol Bender but also learned about working on vehicles from a variety of other people.

After he graduated from high school, Tweeten said, he attended Arizona State University. He added that he only attended Arizona State for about a year before transferring to Northern Montana College, now Montana State University-Northern, and the University of Montana. He said that wherever he went he always brought his toolbox and was working on vehicles in addition to school.

He said that he played college baseball for Northern for about a year, adding that it was the last year that Northern had a baseball team.

Tweeten's love for baseball would also come into play later when he was establishing his business, he said, because his nickname "Hammer'n Hank's," which is the other name for Hank Tweeten's Auto Body, is an homage to Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974.

After attending college Tweeten came back to work for his father's business, but did not want to work in the dealership part of the business, instead he elected to work in the body shop taking the position of shop manager after Bender left the business.

In 1980, Raymond Tweeten and Nordling decided that they wanted to retire and offered to sell Hank Tweeten the business. Tweeten said that he did not want to work in the dealership, instead, he wanted to continue working with his hands doing bodywork, and Hank Tweeten's Auto Body was born.

The dealership was eventually sold to Lenard Rothfusz, a man from Billings, Tweeten said. He added that after the business sold he started his body shop in the back of the dealership, renting the space from Rothfusz. 

Rothfusz would later sell the business to Chinook native Mike Tilleman, who started Tilleman Motor Co. in Havre, Tweeten said.

Tweeten stayed at his location and continued to build the business, he said. He added that in 1987 they build a heated downdraft spray booth, which was the first one in Havre. 

He said that later he also added the logo for the auto body shop, which is a picture of a man with a hammer. He said he got the idea of the logo after seeing an advertisement for a circus while in one of the print shops in the area. He said that the brother of one of his long-time employees, Nick Goebel, designed the logo.

His son Kevin, now owner of Hank Tweeten's Auto Body, said that he remembers coming in when he was younger to sweep the floors of the shop and make repairs to his bicycle. He said that he always liked being in the shop and had a love of vehicles from a young age. He added that the first vehicle he ever owned was a 1966 Ford pick-up truck which he bought from his grandfather and repaired in his father's shop.

After high school, he moved out to Washington state, Tweeten said. In 2002, he returned to Havre and started working alongside his father at the family business.

When he started working at the business, Tweeten added, it was changing, going more digital than ever before He said technology had greatly advanced and he was there to help the business stay successful moving forward with handling the electronic claims and digital photos.

Hank Tweeten said that he was glad to see his son come back and help run the family business.

"I knew he would be a hard worker," he said, adding that Kevin Tweeten was much more in tune with the advancements in technology and was a great help to the business.

"You have to keep going and learning or it's going to pass you by," he said.

At the end of 2013, Hank Tweeten decided to retire, selling his son the business. 

Hank Tweeten said that it was always his dream to see his son take over the business and fall in love with the work. 

"I'm proud of him," he said.

He added that he never pushed his son to get involved with the business but let him find his own way.

"If you don't like it, you are not going to do a good job, for yourself or your customer," he said.

Kevin Tweeten said that he is proud of how the business has been able to grow and keep up with the changing market. He added that he is very proud of the work his father has done and is proud he is able to continue the legacy of hard work and customer service.

He added that he is grateful for the employees they have and is glad of the impact their business has been able to have on the community. 

"The community supports our business, so we support them," he said.

He said he and his father have been very involved with community groups such as the schools and sports organizations, not only in Havre but across the Hi-Line.

Without the community the business would not be where it is, he said.

"It's all about giving back," he said.


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